I see these moms out there who absolutely adore their children and never get angry with them. They live these perfect lives where finger paint gets all over the walls and they laugh it off with their, “Kids will be kids” mentality. They are honestly proud of each and every minuscule accomplishment. I stare at these women in awe because I will never be one of them. Ever.
When Peanut was born, I loved everything about being a mom. I didn’t mind getting up in the middle of the night. I didn’t mind that I was exhausted all the time. I was so in love with her and I loved seeing the world for the first time again through her eyes. This was my purpose in life. This was why I was here. I was made to be this beautiful creature’s mom. I didn’t care that we were broke or that I had been forced to regress in life and move back in with my mom in order to get back on my feet. Nothing mattered but her.
I saw friends that would get so frustrated with their infant or toddler because the children couldn’t verbalize what they needed. I understood, but at the same time, I didn’t. This poor little being needs you to help guide him/her to what they want. You have to teach them. And teach I did. Before she could verbalize, I looked through an American Sign Language book that I had from college and taught her words in sign. She knew what sound every animal I could think of made. She spoke clearly and in complete sentences so quickly. She was so damn smart and so ahead of herself that I couldn’t believe how lucky I was.
I went back to work the summer before she turned 3, which meant she started spending more and more time with my mother, and that’s when our disconnect started. I would wake up in the morning after closing and cleaning the bar the night before and they would just be gone. No note. No text or phone call. She would come home with shoes for days and new outfits galore. I couldn’t compete. I was just starting to get my life back together. My mom gave her undivided attention nonstop and took her on endless shopping trips while I still had other things I had to do- laundry, errands, an erratic work schedule, etc- and bills to catch up on. She started choosing Grandma over me every single time. Every. Single. Time. A part of me died inside. I gave up. I started sleeping until 2 in the afternoon. What did it matter? What was I missing? She was just going to ignore me anyway.
I know this was a childish way to react. I’m not saying I was right. I’m just being honest about what happened. I had tried to talk to my mother about backing off a little. It fell on deaf ears. And who was I to criticize anyone? Me, the single mom, living at her mom’s for free, while my mom babysat for free, trying to get back on my feet. I felt like I had no say in the matter. I was just there and I wasn’t even doing that well.
About a year later I got the job at the casino I work at now. I was working full time, but it was the overnight shift. This gave me much more time with my little girl again. I didn’t leave until bedtime. I was there for dinner and her bath, I got home just in time to get her up and ready for preschool. I was more involved again. Things were starting to get back to normal and I was starting to enjoy being a mom again. Weekends were still the same old scenario, though. I would wake up and the house would be empty. Even on days that I had made plans for us, no one would be home and I would have no idea when they would get home. Or, even better, my mom would make plans with my daughter without telling me. Then, when I already had plans for us and vetoed their plans, I became the bad guy. She still does this.
I started dating T early that fall. By Christmas we were madly in love and discussing moving in together. I told him I wanted to wait until Peanut was done with preschool that May. That gave us time to make sure this was what everyone wanted and time to do things the right way. The truth is that I would have been out of my mother’s house that spring come hell or high water. I love her dearly and I will always be grateful for everything she has done for me. Everything she still does for me. However, we had overstayed our welcome and it was ruining my relationship with my child. I needed out. We moved in that June, spent the summer solidifying our little threesome as a family, and he proposed to both of us that December. I had dropped down to part time at the casino when she started Kindergarten and from then on I have only worked weekends so that I’m home more often and more involved. I thought we were finally on the right track.
Everyone warns you about the terrible 2s. Some people warn you that the 3s are even worse. No one warns you about the psychotic 6s. Or maybe that’s just my kid. She spends 2 weekends a month with her dad, one near his home, the other near ours. The aftermath of these weekends is an entire week of trying to make her act like a human being again because she’s just been spoiled for 48 hours straight. The other 2 weekends a month are spent at my mom’s. The same thing happens. T and I spend the majority of every single week trying to reestablish control over an entitled 6-year old and we’re not the ones causing the behavior. It has strained our relationship on occasion, and it definitely puts a strain on our little family. There are only so many times you can be the bad guy before you start to give up.
Those same friends that were so frustrated with their 2-3 year olds? They have great relationships with their kids now. It feels like our roles have completely reversed. I’ve thought many times about trying to get a more traditional job, even though it would be a significant decrease in pay. I’ve gone for my real estate license and failed at making that into a business. I got certified in phlebotomy, but couldn’t find a job for the hours I was available. I’ve tried to do more with my life than just be a bartender or waitress, tried to go a more traditional route. But the truth is, once you start making the kind of money you can in a restaurant or bar, it’s hard to go back to the regular 9-5 grind. I would have to work so many more hours just to break even, which means more time away from my child.
Basically, I’m at an impasse. I’m hoping things will be better when I go out on maternity leave and I’m home all the time, but I’m also worried about my little attention seeker. If she’s not getting enough attention now when it’s one on one, what will happen when her brother or sister gets here and they need all the attention? Will the outbursts get worse? I don’t know if I can handle worse.
So, to the moms out there whose children can do no wrong, who smile at your offspring and say, “That’s okay” even though the living room looks like a bomb exploded in it, I would like to know… How the hell do you do it? How do you not get so frustrated that you yourself explode when you’ve told them 18 times to calm down and they’ve looked into your face and done the exact same thing again? How do you not freak out when you have the same fights about brushing hair, brushing teeth, putting clothes in the hamper, doing homework, etc, day in and day out for the entire school year? Because I’m at the point where I lose my cool now. I’m over the repetition. I’m over all of it. Seriously, how do you do it?